Answer to a question from a reader

Is there a way to take up the problem of being denied a disability grant?

The short answer

You can apply for a disability grant at your nearest SASSA office.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

Is there a way to take up the problem of being denied a disability grant? I had to leave my work after ten years at the company, because of severe pain, memory problems, and fatigue caused by Hashimoto’s disease and Fibromyalgia, which I contracted after a severe Covid infection in 2020. In South Africa, these diseases mentioned above are not seen as disabilities, as the majority of people who have one or both diseases are still able to function, while I am are unable to work. 

The long answer

It must very distressing to have both these diseases. The Mayo Clinic describes the Hashimoto’s as an auto-immune disease attacking the healthy tissue of the thyroid, which produces the hormones that the body needs to function, and says the condition can usually be treated by taking daily medication. It describes fibromyalgia as ‘a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and nonpainful signals.’ It goes on to say that symptoms often begin after an event such as infection, like Covid, in your case.

I am assuming that you have already applied to SASSA for the disability grant and been declined? But in case you have not actually applied, let’s go through the application process, as you would need to appeal a decision by SASSA to reject your disability application, before you could take it up as a human rights issue with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

The Western Cape government has the following on its website: “If you’re permanently unable to work, or if you’re temporarily unable to work for longer than 6 months due to a physical or mental disability, you’re eligible to apply for a South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) disability grant.”

The disability information NGO Disability Info South Africa (DISA) says a person can apply for a disability grant if they are, “owing to a physical or mental disability, unfit to obtain by virtue of any service, employment or profession the means needed to enable him or her to provide for his or her maintenance.”

There is also the SASSA Hotline: 0800 60 10 11.

A GroundUp article explains that to qualify for a disability grant, you’ll need to:

  • Be a South African citizen, permanent resident, or refugee living in South Africa at the time of application;
  • Be between 18 and 59 years old;
  • Not be cared for in a state institution;
  • Have a valid South African identity document (ID);
  • Undergo a medical examination where a doctor appointed by the state will assess the degree of your disability;
  • Bring along any previous medical records and reports when you make the application and have the assessment;
  • Must meet the requirements of the means test (ie not earn more than R86,280 if you are single or R172,560 if married);
  • Not have assets worth more than R1,227,600 if you are single or R2,455,200 if you are married;
  • Meet the requirements of the means test; and
  • Not be a recipient of another grant.

You can apply for a disability grant at your nearest SASSA office. If you’re too sick to travel to an office near you, a family member or friend can apply on your behalf.
You’ll be required to present the following documents when applying for a disability grant:

  • Your 13-digit bar-coded identity document (ID);
  • A medical report and functional assessment report, by a medical practitioner recognised by SASSA, confirming your disability. Your medical assessment must not be older than 3 months at the date of application;
  • Proof of marital status (if applicable);
  • Proof of residence;
  • Proof of income or dividends (if any);
  • Proof of assets, including the municipal value of your property;
  • Proof of private pension (if any);
  • Your bank statements for the past three months;
  • Refugee status permit and 13-digit refugee ID;
  • Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) document ('blue book') or discharge certificate from your previous employer if you were employed.

So let’s assume you have applied and SASSA says Hashimoto’s disease and Fibromyalgia do not qualify as disabilities. So what now?

Grocott's Mail in a 2019 article sets out in detail the procedure to follow. I summarise as follows:

The right to appeal is covered in Section 33 of the Constitution which says that everyone has the right to administrative action which is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair. And that everyone whose rights have been adversely affected by administrative action has the right to written reasons.

This constitutional right is enforced by the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA, 2000) which provides for having adverse administrative decisions reviewed.

The process:

  • You have a right to appeal within 90 days of receiving your letter from SASSA declining your disability grant application, and giving reasons why;
  • The appeal is conducted by the Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals;
  • But before you can appeal to the Tribunal, you must use the internal SASSA appeal mechanism, which means you must submit a written ‘Application for Reconsideration’ to SASSA;
  • If SASSA does not reconsider, you must submit the following documents to the Tribunal:
  1. Proof of your application;
  2. Previous or current medical reports;
  3. Proof of your income and assets;
  4. The SASSA rejection letter. 

If you’ve missed the 90-day-cut-off, you can submit an “Application for Condonation for Late Appeal’ in which you explain why your appeal is late. They have 90 days to decide if they’ll accept your late appeal.
If the Tribunal does not reverse the SASSA decision, you can go to court to challenge it. You can also lay a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The SAHRC says that disability is one of their seven focus areas to promote and protect human rights in South AfrIca.

On their website, you can download a complaint form. On this form you will have to fill in:

  • Your full name, race and gender (for statistical purposes only), your physical and postal address, email, telephone – and your preferred way of communicating;
  • Full details of what has happened, dates and place, what human right has been violated, and if it involves any organ of state;
  • What you have done so far to resolve the complaint;
  • Contact details for any person who can supply further information;
  • Whether the complaint is urgent;
  • Any other relevant details and documents that can be used in the investigation.

The investigation is likely to take a fair amount of time. 

DISA, an NGO based in Plumstead, Cape Town, may be helpful. These are their contact details:
Email: and
Tel: 084 504 9176

The Black Sash offers free paralegal advice, and will listen to your story and advise you on your rights and what to do. Their advice hotline number is 072 66 33 739. You can SMS them or send them a “please call me” if you have no airtime.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Feb. 20, 2023, 8:38 a.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.